Registered: Mar 2012
04-22-12 05:49 PM
Quote from nutmeg:
Owens opposes youth farm labor rule
April 14, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer (email@example.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Congressman Bill Owens says a U.S. Department of Labor regulation is making it difficult for farmers to employ teens under the age of 16.
Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said the regulation would allow a farmer to hire a 14-year-old to pick berries in a field, but it bars those teen workers from using farm equipment, even a wheelbarrow, to bring the berries to a processing center.
"That's an absurd outcome," Owens said. "I understand if a 14-year-old can't operate a 15-ton tractor; I get that. But to operate a wheelbarrow? Spray down a cow's stall? Clean it up? Use a leaf blower to clean up hay from a barn? Clearly that's not common sense from the Department of Labor."
"I think it's just one of these situations where you have a good intention that's badly implemented, which is why I'm opposing it," he added.
Owens has co-sponsored legislation in the House of Representatives that would prohibit the labor department from implementing the regulation. Owens said a growing group of bipartisan lawmakers has signed onto the bill.
"The Department of Labor been unwilling to modify it," he said in a phone interview.
According to Owens, the labor rule changes the description of a "hazardous job," and the agency also changed the description of a family farm to exclude farms owned by corporations or limited liability companies. He said the new regulation, which was approved by the labor department last year, doesn't take into account that many corporations and LLCs are family farms.
The issue of youth labor regulations was raised at a hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill that the House Agriculture Committee's in Saranac Lake last month. Michele Ledoux of the Adirondack Beef Company told the committee said the youth labor rules cut "at the heart of family tradition by preventing young people from working on their family's farm.
"We have taught them how to work safely around machines and animals," Ledoux said, "so that they have grown up to be as safety-conscious as my husband and I."
Owens attended a conference with farmers in Albany on Thursday. He said farmers also pointed out that the labor regulation bars family farms that are corporations or LLCs from letting teens participate in farm labor training, although kids can watch during safety courses and other instructional sessions.
"The way kids learn is by watching and doing," Owens said. "Imagine saying to a manufacturer, 'You can do on-the-job training, but they can only watch.'"
Owens said he recognizes that farm work does involve "a level of danger," but he noted that small farms in New York state are already struggling to find workers and that the number of farm-related injuries is on the decline.
Owens said the bill to reverse the youth labor regulations, introduced last week, is picking up steam and could cruise through the Agriculture Committee.
Expecting common sense from Big Brother is the height of folly.